What’s not to love about Thai food?
Thai food is like puppies with soft fur and tiny paws. Thai food is snuggling by toasty fire on a snowy winter day. Thai food is slipping into bed after the longest day possible. Thai food is beyond comfort. It’s the universal key to happiness. I don’t know one person who doesn’t like Thai food. If you’re that one person, then you need to make a trip to Chiang Mai. Pronto.
The magic of Thai food in the north lies in the beauty embedded within Lanna Kingdom. Think outside of green and red curries, Lanna cuisine is often hailed by the glorious Khao Soi – tender egg noodles sublimely drenched in a coconut-based curry broth, topped with a crispy layer of crunchy egg noodles. Its aroma derives from a mixture of chili, onions, pickled cabbage and lime. You’ll find Khao Soi in most traditional restaurants, local markets and street vendors.
This list comprises the perfect weekend of tasty delights, true to JST fashion: a bit of high and low. There’s Michelin, tasting menus, vegan cafés, and of course, an iconic Chiang Mai market where travelers can indulge in authentic flavors. Enjoy every bite, if it’s possible, you’ll fall deeply in love with Thai food even more.
Cuisine de Garden
99 หมู่ที่ 11, Nong Kwai, Hang Dong District, Chiang Mai 50230, Thailand
For the most incredible meal in Chiang Mai, reserve a table at Cuisine de Garden. The 15-course tasting menu is completely nature-inspired, offering a deep dive into an innovative vision of local ingredients and produce. Chef Nan Leelawat Mankongtiphan was a furniture designer who became inspired by Copenhagen’s renowned Noma restaurant. The entire culinary experience begins right at the minute you exit the car, entering a charming garden with stones that pave a hushed path into a minimalistic setting. The 12-seat restaurant includes an open kitchen, brilliant presentation, and artistic bites. Expect to have every part of your senses be wonderfully surprised. This is, by far, the best restaurant in Chiang Mai.
A nature-inspired concept coincidentally aligns with the current movement on ethical travel in which Cuisine de Garden spearheads by using 100% local produce that narrates stories of farmers and their land. The reduced number of tables in the restaurant was intentional, as Chef Nan wanted to talk to the clients. From the start, he always wanted his team to focus on what they’ve done best: using food to communicate and educate customers. Read more “How Chef Nan Fosters Nature-Inspired Eating Through Cuisine de Garden.”
Oxygen Dining Room
369/1 Charoenraj Road, Wat Ket, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand
The French and Thai fusion is delivered in the most playful and creative manner at Oxygen Dining Room, thanks to chef Alexandre Demard who comes from a background of Cannes’ Mediterranean glamour and outstanding caliber. When butter comes in three different flavors, alongside an organic egg khao khao moo (braised pork leg,) you know that chef Alex likes to mix things up with a whimsical wink. Much of his genius comes from transforming Thai street food’s traditional dishes into an imaginitive affair, delivered to excite your palette with unpredictability.
Old Chiangmai Cultural Center
185 Wua Lai Rd Soi 3, Tambon Hai Ya, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Sometimes, cliché is okay! Dinner at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center is a true feast since it’s the first Khantoke dinner (a pedestal tray used as a small dining table by the Lanna people) and Lanna cultural show in the city. The Cultural Center also offers other shows, including: Muay Thai Boxing and Hill Tribes, but the dinner dance show is truly spectacular with delicious foods while sitting on the floor and admiring folk dances on the stage. Expect traditional dishes like Burmese pork curry, green chilli paste, minced pork in tomato-chilli paste, crispy fried pork skin, fresh vegetables, stir-fried mixed vegetables, sweet crispy noodles, fried pumpkin, fried chicken…and much more.
Nophaburi Bar | Thai Cocktail
75/1 samlaan Rd., Phasingh, Mueang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Nophaburi is a hidden Thai cocktail bar serving quirky and yummy drinks, while many locals consider this as one of the best cocktails bars in Chiang Mai. The unique scales on the main bar table sets the mood for an amusing ambiance, intimate and cozy with quirky décor: lamp base in the form of a squirrel, traditional Thai statues…etc. Try its cocktails concocted with Thai ingredients and liqueur, imagine The Lamoon, made with local rum, Mekhong (Thai spirit,) jasmine, orange and passion fruit. On some nights, there’s also live music!
The Service 1921 Restaurant
123 Charoen Prathet Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
The Service 1921 Restaurant is housed inside the former British Consulate now transformed into the Antanara Hotel, which is always a good idea for a fancy meal in a refined and romantic setting. Come here if you’re nostalgic for a juicy steak and fragrant ravioli paired with delicious cocktails. It’s a fancy spot to be but full of history. In addition to the food and luscious drinks, the interior décor still rings true to its past stemmed from an eccentric British intelligence concept with dark woods and hidden doors that lead to grandiose dining rooms.
Reform Kafé – Vegan Garden Restaurant
1 4 Sri Poom Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Inside the cozy Green Tiger Hotel, Reform Kafé is a vegetarian restaurant that serves Thai and European dishes. The ambiance is extremely relaxing and zen. Large trees and even frogs surround the outdoor courtyard where you’ll witness travelers indulging in tasty dishes or working on their laptops. Dive into Thai specialties, fresh garden salads, fruit juices, smoothies, and coffee. Reform Kafé uses locally sourced, organic or pesticide-free ingredients whenever possible.
Free Bird Cafe
14 ถนนศิริมังมังคลาจารย์ Mueang Chiang Mai District, 50200, Thailand
Free Bird is a “café with a cause” and offers a fantastic array of organic options, from food, smoothies, juices, coffees, and desserts. We love it because the café supports Thai Freedom House, which gives back to a community language and arts program for refugees. If you didn’t know, there’s quite a huge population of Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai. Founder of Thai Freedom House, Lisa Nesser is originally from Saint Louis, MO. She created the foundation to provide “a healthy, fulfilling daily meal, a safe house where students and their family members could gather and use as a community space, they could share their challenges and receive the much desired education that they sought.”
Warorot Market (Kad Luang)
Wichayanon Rd, Tambon Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
For fresh fruits and vegetables, check out the Warorot Market. There’s not a better way to taste what the locals truly eat from what they buy at local markets. From street foods, tasty snacks to fresh durian and mangosteens, you’ve got to stroll through Warorot and fill up your tummy.